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Former Blue Wahoos' Fortes Part Of Marlins Future As Spring Training Begins 

Nick Fortes made an impression in Pensacola during his time with the Blue Wahoos, which led to his MLB debut that year with Marlins. He's part of Miami future as spring training begins Thursday. (Nino Mendez/Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
February 14, 2024

Nick Fortes has distinction of being the first Blue Wahoos player to make his major league debut in 2021 with the Miami Marlins in the first year of Pensacola's affiliation. Fortes entered the start of spring training Thursday hopeful of another separating element of his Marlins career. He seeks to

Nick Fortes has distinction of being the first Blue Wahoos player to make his major league debut in 2021 with the Miami Marlins in the first year of Pensacola's affiliation.

Fortes entered the start of spring training Thursday hopeful of another separating element of his Marlins career. He seeks to become a mainstay catcher.

“I would love to maximize my capabilities and be the best catcher I could possibility be,” said Fortes, 27, a Miami native and former Ole Miss star, speaking to media members on Jan. 26 at the Marlins FanFest event.

“I think it’s in there for me and if I could maximize everything to best of my abilities, I think I can be a really good catcher in this league. I think our organization is in a really good spot right now.”

Fortes is one of seven catchers who will begin workouts Thursday morning – the official report date for Marlins pitchers and catchers to their spring training complex in Jupiter.

Nick Fortes got his launch into a major league debut in 2021 during his season with the Blue Wahoos.Blue Wahoos File Photo

Three other catchers in the big league camp: Paul McIntosh, Will Banfield and Bennett Hostetler, all played for the Blue Wahoos last season.

For the next five days, those catchers will work with the Marlins’ projected starting pitchers, which includes former Blue Wahoos’ Eury Perez and Edward Cabrera, along with relievers and newcomers in morning practice sessions. The first full squad practice is Feb. 20.

Bryan Hoeing, Anthony Maldonado, Max Meyer, Andrew Nardi, Josh Simpson and George Soriano are former Blue Wahoos pitchers on the Marlins’ 40 man roster that will be in workouts.

The non-roster invitees include Jeff Lindgren, Patrick Monteverde and Devin Smeltzer, who pitched for the Blue Wahoos in 2019 as a Minnesota Twins prospect. After making his MLB debut with the Twins, Smeltzer is seeking a return to the big leagues with the Marlins.

Fortes, who played at DeLand High near Daytona Beach, then was a fourth round pick by the Marlins in 2018 out of Ole Miss, played in 108 MLB games last season with the Marlins.

His batting average dipped to .204 with six homers, 26 RBI. These are numbers he knows must improve in 2024.

“Things to improve on, I think just finding consistency with my offense,” said Fortes, speaking to media on Jan. 26. “Finding something that works for me and not changing so much during the season.

“What I’ve been working on is finding something that feels really comfortable for me, which I think I have found and building off it and sticking with it the whole year rather than doing a whole lot of changing. I think I’m in a really good spot right now.”

Fortes earned praise by the Marlins’ pitchers last year for how he handle games and defensive skills. The next step is offensive production.

When he managed Fortes in 2021 with the Blue Wahoos, Kevin Randel remembers how Fortes adjusted to being an everyday catcher.

“It was a big challenge for him to come in an catch every day… he was catching the (top prospects) Meyer and (Jake) Eder,” said Randel, the Blue Wahoos manager each of the past three seasons and expected to return in 2024. “He outperformed what we thought of him.

“And he kind of took that and ran with it. A little bit of sophomore slump (in second full MLB season of 2023), but I think he will be a mainstay behind the plate in Miami. It’s one of those things when you know the person, you are just so happy for the guy.”

Fortes is one of Marlins players who came through the minor league system, made it to the big leagues and has remained. He is now entering his fourth year in Miami. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 18, 2021 in Miami and played in 14 of the Marlins’ final games that season.

He’s eager to begin anew at training camp. The Marlins will essentially have a six-week preparation until the season begins the final week of March. The players on the Blue Wahoos team will begin accelerating their own preparations the first week of March with the official start of the Blue Wahoos season on April 5.

BLUE WAHOOS COUNTDOWN

DATES TO REMEMBER

Thursday (Feb. 15) – Pitchers and catchers invited to the Marlins big-league camp report.

Feb. 20 – First full squad workouts for Marlins, along with minor league players on separate fields.

Feb. 24 – Marlins first Grapefruit League spring training game vs. St. Louis Cardinals

March 15 – Spring Breakout Game, featuring Marlins’ top prospects vs. Cardinals top prospects

March 24 – Marlins final Grapefruit League game vs. New York Mets.

March 28 – Marlins’ season-opener vs. Pittsburgh Pirates in Miami.

March 30-31 – Blue Wahoos players arrive in Pensacola.

April 1 – First team workout at Blue Wahoos Stadium

April 2-3 – Blue Wahoos vs Monterrey (Mexico) Sultanes in first-of-its-kind pair of exhibition games (both at 6:05 p.m.) at Blue Wahoos Stadium with live television broadcast back to Mexico.

April 5 – Blue Wahoos season-opener at 6:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi Braves at Blue Wahoos Stadium.